How to Change the Voice Inside Your Head

How to Change the Voice Inside Your Head

It’s late at night, and you’re about to fall asleep.  As you drift off into dreamland, your mind wanders to that one thing you really want to do with your life.  Maybe you want to start your own business.  Write a novel.  Travel to foreign places.  These long-standing dreams put a smile to your face.

Until you hear “the voice.”

“Sure, it would be great to start your own business, but what about security?  You’ll lose your health benefits and let’s face it, your retirement savings are pitiful.  Your job’s not great, but it’s better than nothing.”

“It would be fun to write a novel, but who has time for that?   You have to work overtime as it is, and your children aren’t going to raise themselves.  Maybe you can squeeze in some time in 5-10 years.”

“Travel sounds like a blast, but it’s expensive.  Not to mention the risks.  Didn’t you just read about a tourist dying overseas?  It might be better to do a staycation this year.”

The voice halts more of your good intentions than any other factor.  Even the bravest among us have this voice, nagging at us to remain constant.  When it comes to trying something new and challenging, you must overcome the voice.

So how do you combat something so ingrained in your personality, it feels like a part of you?  By tweaking your everyday habits, you can also alter the voice to align with your new goals:

Fill your Mind with Positive Images

If the voice inside your head defaults to negativity, change it by training yourself to only see positive images of your goal.  First, come up with a mental picture that represents the good feelings you associate with your new pursuit.  Perhaps it’s you crossing the finish line after your first marathon.  Thereafter, whenever you start hearing the nagging voice telling you to quit, immediately focus on that positive image.  It will take some mental work at first, but over time, you can replace the negative thoughts with the positive image.

Remove the Negativity in your Media

In our tech-connected world of Facebook opinions and Twitter hashtagging, it’s easy to be connected with friends and family.  Unfortunately, their opinions can be detrimental to your end goals.  If you are constantly being bombarded with naysayers in your media consumption – whether that be in your Facebook feed or the news app on your phone – cut them out.

As a personal example, when I had my daughters, I quit my job and found part-time work so I could play a bigger role in raising my children (something I could thankfully afford given my financial situation).  I loved my old job, but felt this was a better balance for my life with children.  Many of my Facebook friends in the same situation chose instead to keep their full-time careers.  In my opinion, both options are valid.  However, those friends were constantly posting about the virtue of sticking with your career after having kids.  At first, it made me feel as if I made the wrong choice, even though I was happy with my new routine.  After many months, I blocked those posts from my Facebook feed, effectively quietening the voice of doubt.

Find People who Believe in You

This seems corny, but regardless, it works.  If you surround yourself with people who will tell you that your goal is achievable, your voice will emulate those people.  It helps tremendously if the people you interact with daily – your closest friends, your spouse, your co-workers – are included in this group.  If you can’t find people in your inner circle to push your forward, make new friends who do.  Find a travel interest board that has others who have jet setted across the globe or meet up with other small business owners.  They have already conquered their nay-saying voice and can help you do the same.

Use Quiet Time to Reflect

It’s great to remind yourself of your passion and goals in the heat of a big moment.  However, it is just as important to remind yourself why you want to pursue your goals in the less dramatic moments.  At the end of a long, frustrating day of working towards your goal, take 10-15 minutes to reflect on why you are taking this journey.  Meditation works well here, but listening to music, reviewing your progress, or any positive reinforcement will work.  The key is to remind yourself not to quit even when things get discouraging.

It’s hard enough to change when others give you push back, but by altering the nagging voice inside your own head, you can convince your biggest critic (i.e. you) to go forward.  What other methods have you used to change your inner voice?

Photo by Penny Lane

Deborah Fike

Deborah Fike is the Director of Educational Outreach for Spotkin, an educational games company that marries fun with learning.  She’s also the founder of Avalon Labs, which provides marketing consultations and writing services for start-ups and online businesses.   She carves out a significant portion of her time to raising her two younger daughters.

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19 Comments

  1. Deborah,

    Thanks for the encouragement. My kids are grown, but they still love support. Hard to stop being a mom. That being said, I left my job in June and started on a new adventure of selling products I developed and starting a new web site, which I will start to blog as well (taking a blogging course first).

    Yes, those voices that say no and all the people who come up to you and say, hey you are crazy. Luckily my husband and kids are in my corner and are helping me stay the course. It is scary and when those voices in your head keep talking, it is so easy to give up. Gosh I applaud you for sticking with your kids. They are so important. I worked full time while mine grew, but I made lots of time for them. They have grown up to be fine people with good heads and hearts. You will be very happy with your decision to make them important.

    I have often thought that when we meet our maker, they won’t be asking us how much money we made or what promotion we got at work. I think they will ask us, what did you do with those precious gifts of children I sent to you.

    Thanks You so Much Deborah!

    Reply
    • Susan,

      Thanks for the kind words. First, I’m glad that you have your husband and your kids in your corner as you pursue your passion. Having supporters can help a lot with quieting that nagging voice. Second, I’m very happy with my choice to go with part-time work. It suits me. I do want to reiterate that my friends who have chosen to stay with their careers are also worth applauding. More than anything, I think it’s important to know yourself and stay true to yourself, even when others think they know what’s best for you. That’s been my personal story.

      Reply
  2. Great article. The voice in our head can be either our greatest enemy or our best friend – often it’s both, almost at the same time. It’s why staying positive and surrounding yourself with other positive people is so important.

    Reply
    • It’s true that the voice can be both a positive and negative voice, sometimes simultaneously so! Having strategies to stay positive helps to keep us on track.

      Reply
  3. While you’re ignoring the nay – sayers, you also need to ignore the people who wave those bright shiny objects in front of you. Like your best friend who just opened a craft store and wants you to help out or your cousin who started a blog and wants you to donate your social media expertise. Have you ever been asked to sit on a board of directors and made the decision to say, “No thank you,” because you couldn’t commit to the time?

    It’s hard work figuring out “that one thing you really want to do with your life.” When you’ve figured it out, create boundaries around whatever that “thing” is so that you make it happen in your lifetime.

    Reply
    • Kathy,

      It’s funny you mention the boundaries you need to create because I’m going through something very similar. Doing part-time consultant work means I have to pick and choose my battles. If I did everything that was offered, I’d probably be working harder than when I had my former career! You have to make a commitment to make it work.

      Thanks for adding this piece of advice.

      Reply
  4. The voice of over caution can lead us to not change anything and continue on the same well worn path – also known as a rut. If we want something more, a little adventure, then that means a risk. In the end it’s a subtle shift from the assumption that there’s no risk in not changing (unlikely as the world chnages around us) to embracing change and a little risk. The benefit is we get to chose the risk and the adventure.

    Reply
    • That’s a great point, Peter. We think that by “staying the course” that we will encounter no risk. Realizing that there is risk in never changing can help us make a change for something we want more.

      Reply
  5. VERY GOOD

    Reply
  6. I like all four of these, Deborah. I only wonder what it takes to make the ultimate shift to feeling worthy of using these techniques. If you don’t have a personal narrative that says “I am supposed to be happy and successful” it will be hard to sustain any of these for the long term.

    Reply
    • You raise a good point, Larry. You have to believe that you are worthy of happiness and success. Raising your self-esteem and self-worth overall can naturally help quell the negative voice too. These are difficult qualities to obtain if you haven’t been telling yourself you deserve it, but as someone who used to believe that you had to just “put up” with life rather than love it, I do think it can be done.

      Reply
  7. It’s been the end of long day, Deborah & your post is EXACTLY what I need to hear. I find it’s more difficult to combat “the voice” the more fatigued I get. You gave some good concrete tools to help along the “change highway.” Many thanks….

    Reply
    • Glad that this came at a time when you needed it, Marcy. Good luck in all your endeavors.

      Reply
  8. Good article. The problem with the voice in your head is trying to distinguish between intuition and fear. If it is constantly negative then it is more than likely that your fear speaking to you. Fear can be good – it stops us from being reckless and foolhardy. But don’t let this hold you back from achieving your full potential. Take a chance otherwise you will always be wondering ‘what if??’ Find out exactly what you are scared of and why, that way you can address the issue.

    If you have a negative frame of mind, affirmations are a powerful tool in adjusting your mindset to a positive one and are definitely to be recommended. You state and keep repeating something positive about yourself until you actually start to believe it – and it works!!

    Smash down that wall of fear and negativity and find the path ahead clear to achieve your goals. The possibilities are endless. So what are you waiting for?? :-)

    Reply
    • Thanks for embellishing on the idea that the negative voice often represents fear…fear of change, fear of doing something new. Realizing that the voice is fear can help you overcome it, and I do agree that positive images can help combat the fear.

      Reply
  9. Good post. I’ve dealt with extreme voices in the past and recently wrote a book about it “A Train Called Forgiveness.” What you’re saying is true, but very hard for most to accomplish.

    Reply
    • It’s true that changing how you view yourself or your ability to accomplish things is very hard, but I want people to know it is possible. It’s encouraging also to hear people in the comments talk about their personal experience. For those who truly want to give it a go, you are all inspiring.

      Reply
  10. Thanks for the great advice Deborah. Falling asleep is the worst time for negativity to creep in. Sometimes it’s raising valid issues too and that’s no fun when you’re trying to get to sleep. I’ve taken a little trick from meditation to solve this. To clear your mind and fall right off to sleep, you only need to think about nothing. It’s easy with an intermediate step. This step is to think about a single image. They usually suggest a candle flame, but I prefer a beige manilla envelope sitting on a grey desk. I don’t know why I pick this image. Maybe it represents a finished piece of writing, but imagining that and avoiding all self talk lets me drift right off. I like how you stick to your own life choices. Thanks again for the article.

    Reply
    • That’s great advice for avoiding negative thoughts as you fall asleep. Thanks for the tip. I’ll probably give it a try myself!

      Reply

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